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Sderot Mayor David Buskila, who is chairman of the group of outlying towns, has been fighting a Finance Ministry decision to slash the budget-balancing grants the central government gives municipalities.

However, while leading demonstrations and writing letters denouncing the Finance Ministry and its minister Yuval Steinitz for cutting the funding, Buskila awarded Steinitz the title of honorary resident of Sderot last week.

At the ceremony, which was held in the Negev town's community center town as part of the Sderot conference on social issues, Buskila thanked the minister for his work on behalf of the town.

Alon Davidi, an opposition member of the Sderot city council, said he could not fathom the move.

"Unfortunately, Buskila takes an award that is given to people who have worked consistently for the city and in extraordinary ways, such as former education minister Yossi Sarid did, and uses it as a bargaining chip," said Davidi.

Davidi said Buskila was using the award to reduce the city's budgetary shortfall, and that Steinitz "has done nothing for Sderot."

In a newsletter to residents distributed yesterday, Buskila wrote: "Despite the economic edicts that have befallen us, and despite the damage to the local government budgets, I have the pleasant task of granting honorary residency to our finance minister."

Only a month ago, Buskila made remarks of quite a different tenor. Noting that following the budget cuts, dozens of municipal workers would lose their jobs, he told Haaretz, "Sderot and all peripheral towns will fight using all the means at their disposal to thwart this unfair and inappropriate cut."